PM says 'change means disruption' in make-or-break conference speech

Can Liz Truss unite the warring Tories? PM will warn ‘change means disruption’ as she faces make-or-break speech to party conference just a MONTH after taking power – with bitter Cabinet splits over tax and benefits

  • Liz Truss is due to deliver her keynote speech to Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this morning
  • The PM faces a huge challenge to try and unite Tories engaged in brutal civil war over benefits and tax rates 
  • Ms Truss will insist her ‘new approach’ is vital to tackle challenge Britain faces and ‘change means disruption’

Liz Truss faces a make-or-break moment just a month into her premiership today as she tries to unite warring Tories with her keynote conference speech.

After a gathering in Birmingham blighted by splits over tax rates and benefits, the PM will plead for her troops to get behind her vision of ‘a new Britain for a new era’. 

She will insist they should ignore the noise of those who do not agree with her policies, saying that ‘whenever there is change, there is disruption’. 

‘Not everyone will be in favour,’ she will say. ‘But everyone will benefit from the result – a growing economy and a better future.’ 

However, the message comes against the backdrop of one of the most chaotic Tory conferences in memory, where Cabinet collective responsibility has almost completely crumbled. The mood has been darkened by a series of polls showing Labour on track for a landslide win at an election. 

Ms Truss and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng robustly defended axing the 45p top rate of tax on Sunday, despite the mini-Budget triggering mayhem on markets.

But within 24 hours they had been forced to U-turn and drop the idea, following a revolt headed by Michael Gove.

Then there was a meltdown over the plan to impose a real-terms cut on benefits, with Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt openly stating that she wanted to see handouts raised in line with inflation.    

Home Secretary Suella Braverman hit back at Mr Gove for attempting a ‘coup’, and swiped that she was ‘disappointed’ that Ms Truss had abandoned her intention of scrapping the 45p rate.

Ms Braverman also told a fringe event last night that she wanted to pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights – something that drew a slapdown from No10 pointing out it is not government policy. 

In other twists and turns as Ms Truss faces her moment of truth at conference:

  • Foreign Secretary James Cleverly ridiculed the idea that Ms Truss could be ousted soon, insisting she ‘says what she’s going to do and then does what she says’; 
  • MPs and Tory aides are being ordered to stay in Birmingham for the leader’s speech amid fears the train strike and low morale could see the hall half-empty; 
  • COP26 chair and Cabinet minister Alok Sharma has called for King Charles to attend the Cop27 summit in Egypt next month, after Ms Truss apparently advised the monarch against going; 
  • Confusion surrounds the date of Mr Kwarteng’s fiscal statement, with the Chancellor publicly saying it will be on November 23 but aides insisting it will happen sooner;
  • Government whips are threatening a brutal crackdown at Westminster to enforce discipline after the shambolic conference in Birmingham;
  • A shock Redfield & Wilton poll shows Labour ahead by 38 per cent in the Red Wall, up from a 15 per cent lead two weeks ago. 

Liz Truss and husband Hugh arrive for her crucial speech to Tory conference today

The Prime Minister will use her keynote speech, pictured practising, to the Conservative Party conference to try to unite warring Tories behind her vision of a ‘new Britain for a new era

A shock poll last night showed Labour leading by 38 points in the Red Wall, up from a 15-point lead just two weeks ago 

Home Secretary Suella Braverman hit back at Mr Gove for attempting a ‘coup’, and swiped that she was ‘disappointed’ that Ms Truss had abandoned her intention of scrapping the 45p rate

In her speech at around 11am, Ms Truss is expected to say: ‘The scale of the challenge is immense. War in Europe for the first time in a generation.

‘A more uncertain world in the aftermath of Covid. And a global economic crisis.

‘That is why in Britain we need to do things differently. Whenever there is change, there is disruption. Not everyone will be in favour.

‘But everyone will benefit from the result – a growing economy and a better future.’ Miss Truss will add: ‘That is what we have a clear plan to deliver.’ 

In a round of interviews this morning, Ms Cleverly insisted Ms Truss will lead the Tories into the next election – dismissing warnings that she only has 10 days to save herself.

‘I like the fact that she says what she’s going to do and then does what she says,’ he told BBC Breakfast.

‘She is delivering from day one on the things she said she would do because, as I say, she recognises that if you don’t go for growth you end up with either stagnation or recession and that is not what we want to do.’

The PM has already been obliged to abandon her plan to scrap the 45p top rate of tax.

Several Cabinet ministers as well as a swathe of MPs are opposed to plans to squeeze £7billion from the welfare budget by capping rises in benefit payments to average incomes rather than inflation. 

Ministers are braced for more controversy this month when the Government publishes proposals for radical ‘supply side’ reforms in eight areas covering everything from planning and employment rights to farming and fracking.

However, the PM will insist she is right to focus on super-charging growth rather than obsessing over arguments about redistribution.

‘For too long, our economy has not grown as strongly as it should have done,’ she will say. ‘For too long, the political debate has been dominated by how we distribute a limited economic pie.

‘Instead, we need to grow the pie so that everyone gets a bigger slice.

‘That is why I am determined to take a new approach and break us out of this high-tax, low-growth cycle. That is what our plan is about: Getting our economy growing and rebuilding Britain through reform.’ Conservative sources said Miss Truss planned to make a short, focused speech of about half an hour – roughly half the duration of a typical leader’s address.

A source said the premier will acknowledge that ‘mistakes have been made’ in the early days of her administration. 

Ms Truss will also try to turn fire on Labour, arguing that Keir Starmer does not understand the scale of the reforms needed to kickstart growth.

The Tory gathering in Birmingham has been overshadowed by the Prime Minister’s dramatic U-turn over tax – as well as the extraordinary infighting between her senior ministers. But the PM will insist that her ‘new approach’ is vital in tackling the ‘immense challenge’ Britain faces. Pictured: She goes over her speech

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt at conference yesterday. Right, Michael Gove taking a cigarette break at the conference

Ms Truss and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng (pictured together on a visit to a construction site near Birmingham yesterday) have been forced to U-turn on plans to abolish the 45p tax rate 

Alongside measures to boost growth, the Prime Minister will insist she will keep an ‘iron grip’ on the nation’s finances, with a leaner state offering value for taxpayers’ money. 

She will say: ‘This is a great country. But I know that we can do better and we must do better. We have huge talent across the country. We’re not making enough of it.

‘To deliver this, we need to get Britain moving. We cannot have any more drift and delay at this vital time.’

Ms Truss wrote on Twitter last night: ‘We are the only party with a clear plan to grow our economy and get Britain moving. We are the only party with the determination to deliver. Together, we can unleash the full potential of our great country.’

Whips have been appealing to MPs not to leave the conference before the Prime Minister speaks – a process not helped by rail strikes today which will cripple services to Birmingham.

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